Yesterday, I wrote a post about the importance of meals and which of those meals is the most important (despite all of them being important). One of the points I made towards the end, is that it’s important to stop eating at east a couple of hours before you hit the sack, otherwise your body is busy digesting and processing foods instead of what it’s SUPPOSED to be doing during sleep.
As a follow up to that post, I thought it might be interesting to examine and discuss exactly what the body IS doing while we sleep. For the purposes of today’s post, I won’t get into all the “brain stuff” like REM sleep and sleep cycles. Rather, I’d like to focus on the physical aspects that take place within your body while you’re dreaming about that log cabin on the lake that you plan to retire to…
Let’s start with some of physiological effects… According to a list posted by WebMD, your body temperature will drop during sleep and your breathing will deepen and slow. Your heart rate will fluctuate, but non-REM sleep will lower your pulse and blood pressure, allowing the heart and blood vessels to recover. Deep sleep cycles are where the body takes advantage to repair muscle and other tissues, as well as release chemicals that strengthen your immune system. Ever wonder why you need “rest” and sleep when you’re sick? That would be why.
While you sleep, your brain sends out messages to keep you from acting out your dreams. Essentially, your brain paralyzes you while you sleep… (because THAT doesn’t sound horrible!) During sleep, growth hormones increase and stress hormones decrease. There’s also a whole mess of stuff that happens with other hormones as well.
Sleep not only allows your body the opportunity to heal and repair tissues, it also allows your energy to be restored to face the following day’s challenges. Not to mention that your brain processes and stores information and possibly creates long-term memories during sleep. Not to mention eliminating toxins and waste from the body, which is why (outside of drinking too much water before bed) most people dash to the washroom, first thing in the morning.
So just imagine that with everything the body takes care of during your sleep cycle, combined with the fact that your metabolism slows down, you pile a bunch of food on top of it all to be digested right before going to sleep. Eating right before bed can cause heartburn, indigestion and can have an effect on your weight, since the improperly digested calories will likely be stored as fat.
Sleep is super important, and there’s a whole frontier of mystery behind it, as scientists are still uncertain why we have specific sleep cycles, why we dream and what some of the brain activity involved in sleeping is meant for. But one thing is for certain; not getting an appropriate amount of proper sleep can be disruptive and harmful to the body’s natural function. So, hug your pillow tight! Even while you’re at rest, your body continues to work. ☯